NORTHWICH needed extra time to squeeze past lower league opponents and reach the semi-finals of the Cheshire Vase on Saturday.
Playing at former Premiership ground Heywood Road, tenants Sale, of Cheshire and South Lancs Division One, proved tough opponents but the Blacks had just enough to progress.
Star performer Aussie centre Stacey Hosking made several breaks before converting one into a try, which Matt Bebbington converted.
It brought the scores level before half-time as the hosts had taken the lead with a converted try of their own.
The second half was scoreless despite some excellent running from substitute Tom Wood and Kiwi fullback Simon Pratt.
Going into extra-time, Northwich’s superior backline continued to show their class and another Hosking break set up Pratt for a well-deserved try under the posts.
Bebbington then added to his conversions with a bizarre drop goal attempt that was awarded by the referee despite it clearly dropping under the bar.
Sale rallied late on with an unconverted try but it was the visiting Blacks that went through 20-15.
First-team manager Bryan Johnson said: “It was a good hard physical game which is what we needed because we have not played for about four weeks or so.
“We dominated up front and had one of the four or five scoring passes gone to hand when we made breaks in the backs then it would have been a different scoreline.
“We were a bit rusty but it was good to a get a full game under our belts and hopefully we’ll go forward and challenge the top two in the league.
“What the result did show is that there is obviously not too much difference between the leagues.”
This Saturday Northwich, travel to Broughton Park in North West Two action (2.15pm).
Other scores: Sefton 2nds 0 Northwich 2nds 25 (tries: Lee Allmark 2, Chris Heptesinal, Tom Bradfield, Ross Walker).